Music Review: Now! That’s What I Call Music #101

Today, 23rd November 2018, is the release of Now! #101!  It’s also mine and Geth’s sixth wedding anniversary 🙂

November 2018
This is the way the world looks in November 2018, with pretty anniversary cards on our dresser.

We’re now entering a new exciting era of Now! compilations where I only have to review them every four months!  The first hundred compilations were characterised by a gradually worsening quality of music.  I pray this trend will not continue.  Pop music can’t get any worse than it currently is.  Right?

Track 1: Little Mix and Nicki Minaj – Woman Like Me

Great reggae-style rhythm, but the tune’s pretty dull.

Track 2: Calvin Harris and Sam Smith – Promises

Sam Smith’s voice is great as ever, but the tune is pretty forgettable.  Somehow got to number one for weeks on end.

Track 3: Ariana Grande – God Is A Woman

I really like the tune on this one – nice and epic.

Track 4: George Ezra – Hold My Girl

A little slow for me, but it’s a nice tune.  Only entered the charts today, so it was definitely not a hit when chosen for this Now! compilation!

Track 5: Rita Ora – Let You Love Me

Great atmosphere on the chorus – tune’s a bit generic, but it’s an okay pop track.

Track 6: Benny Blanco, Halsey and Khalid – Eastside

I reviewed this one for New Hits Friday.  It’s grown on me a bit since then!

Track 7: Jess Glynne – All I Am

I’ve never been much of a Jess Glynne fan – I find her stuff very boring and the lyrical content very saccharine, and this track is no exception.

Track 8: Cardi B, Bad Bunny and J Balvin – I Like It

Not super keen on the rap (except the enjoyable nonsense in the first verse about Balenciaga et al.!), but I do love the Latin tinge, and it’s very danceable.

Track 9: The Weeknd and Kendrick Lamar – Pray For Me

Black Panther soundtrack song – really like this epic track.

Track 10: Silk City, Dua Lipa, Diplo and Mark Ronson – Electricity

Bored of these ’90s dance-inspired beats now.  The tune is very generic too.

Track 11: Dynoro and Gigi D’Agostino – In My Mind

I really like the eerie atmosphere – there’s some great instrumentals here.  Not keen on the dance beat though.

Track 12: Loud Luxury and Brando – Body

I reviewed this one for New Hits Friday.  I’m still not hugely keen, but it’s a really irritatingly catchy track that’s constantly ending up on my daily earworm playlists.

Track 13: Maroon 5 and Cardi B – Girls Like You

Repeated artist alert!  We’ve already had Cardi B on track 8.

It’s a bit saccharine, but it’s a nice tune.

Track 14: Marshmello and Bastille – Happier

Too slow for me, and the tune’s very dull and generic.

Track 15: Clean Bandit, Marina & The Diamonds and Luis Fonsi – Baby

The vocalist on this is calling herself Marina now, but she was formerly known as Marina & The Diamonds (not a band, just a solo artist with a band name, kind of like Florence & The Machine – this was a bizarre 2009/2010 micro trend).  I’ve missed her vocal style and way with a tune.  This is very Latin-inspired, especially due to the involvement of Luis Fonsi.  Great party pop tune.

Track 16: Ellie Goulding, Diplo and Swae Lee – Close To Me

Repeated artist alert!  We’ve already had Diplo on track 10.

Not exciting or original enough for me, but at least it’s got some semblance of a melody, and it’s starting to grow on me with time.

Track 17: Cheryl – Love Made Me Do It

The lyrics are okay if kind of cheesy, but the tune is terrible.

Track 18: Panic! At The Disco – High Hopes

I reviewed this one for New Hits Friday.  It’s become one of my songs of the year – really like this track.

Track 19: The 1975 – Too Time Too Time Too Time

Yes, I know the title’s supposed to be written in all caps with no spaces, but I won’t be having any of that nonsense here.  This is a dignified blog.

Lovely upbeat tune, though – really like this one.  One of my favourites of 2018.

Track 20: Mabel – One Shot

Not a hit – only got to number 44.

It’s a pretty tune, but it’s very generic.

Track 21: Take That – Out Of Our Heads

Not a hit yet (as of 23rd November 2018)!  They did perform it on Strictly last weekend, so maybe it’s not even out yet.

There’s a nice old-fashioned big-band feel about this one – it’s very jaunty.

Track 22: Lily James, Jessica Keenan Wynn, Alexa Davies and Celia Imrie – When I Kissed The Teacher

Taken from Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again.  Songs from musicals have been a bit of a chart trend this year.  It’s a fairly bog-standard cover of the Abba song, as is normally the case with jukebox musicals.

Track 23: Andrea Bocelli and Dua Lipa – If Only

Repeated artist alert!  We’ve already had Dua Lipa on track 10.

Not a hit yet (as of 23rd November 2018).

Standard pretty, slow romantic song from Andrea Bocelli – I never get sick of his voice.  Dua Lipa does fine, but she can’t hold a candle to Bocelli.

Track 24: DJ Khaled, Justin Bieber, Chance The Rapper and Quavo – No Brainer

I reviewed this one for New Hits Friday.  I still find it really dull.

Track 25: Dave and Fredo – Funky Friday

This track is:

  1. The second number one this year to get to number one after exhortation from the previous number one artist (in this case Sam Smith with Promises – the previous example was George Ezra (Shotgun) telling people to stream Baddiel & Skinner and the Lightning Seeds’ Three Lions).
  2. The second number one this year to feature the word ‘Friday’ in the title (after Lil’ Dicky and Chris Brown with Freaky Friday).

Nothing much else interesting about this song.  It’s very dull and unmelodious and repetitive – no idea why enough people were listening to it to get it to number one.  Oh, wait, there’s a good instrumental electro bit for three seconds – then it goes back to the boring rap.

Track 26: DJ Snake, Selena Gomez, Ozuna and Cardi B – Taki Taki

Repeated artist mega alert!  We’ve already had Cardi B on both track 8 and track 13.  That is far too much of one artist for one Now! compilation!

I do like the background instrumentals, especially the atmospheric whistling, and the Latin vocals are nice, but the rap is very dull.

Track 27: French Montana and Drake – No Stylist

I quite like the atmosphere, but it’s very repetitive.  Are they trying to win a competition to see who can say ‘Gucci’ the most times in a song?

Track 28: Dennis Lloyd – Nevermind

Great rhythm, very noddable.

Track 29: Khalid – Better

Repeated artist alert!  We’ve already had Khalid on track 6.

The track is so boring that I couldn’t even concentrate on writing this sentence.

Track 30: Martin Garrix feat. Khalid – Ocean

Repeated artist mega alert!  We’ve already had Khalid on track 6 and track 29.  That’s two mega alerts on one compilation, which is not an auspicious start for the second century of Now! entries!

It’s a pretty tune with a gorgeous atmosphere – I really quite like this one.

Track 31: Halsey – Without Me

Repeated artist alert!  We’ve already had Halsey on track 6.

Urgh, this track is so slow!  I do like the synthy background instrumentals though.

Track 32: B Young – 079ME

I reviewed this one for New Hits Friday.  I still think it’s too similar to Jumanji.

Track 33: Stay Flee Get Lizzy, Fredo, Young T and Bugsey – Ay Caramba

Repeated artist alert!  We’ve already had Fredo on track 25.

I reviewed this one for New Hits Friday.  I’m still not keen on it at all.

Track 34: Travis Scott – Sicko Mode

There’s no tune, and the rap is extremely generic, but I quite like the eerie quality of the backing track.

Track 35: Shawn Mendes and Zedd – Lost In Japan [Remix]

Good atmosphere, but the tune’s a bit dull.

Track 36: MK, Jonas Blue and Becky Hill – Back And Forth

More ’90s-inspired instrumentals.  Very generic tune.

Track 37: Jonas Blue, Liam Payne and Lennon Stella – Polaroid

Repeated artist alert!  We’ve only just had Jonas Blue on track 36.

Okay tune with a good pop beat, but it’s not super exciting.

Track 38: Au/Ra and CamelPhat – Panic Room

I quite like the atmosphere, but it’s a bit repetitive.

Track 39: Sigala, Ella Eyre, Meghan Trainor and French Montana – Just Got Paid

Repeated artist alert!  We’ve already had French Montana on track 27.

Daft song about payday.  The tune’s pretty uninspired, but it’s got a good beat and it’s quite fun – it’s a good danceable party track.

Track 40: David Guetta and Anne-Marie – Don’t Leave Me Alone

The tune is very generic and forgettable. I quite like the electro instrumentals, but on the whole there’s nothing interesting going on here.

Track 41: Hardy Caprio and One Acen – Best Life

Very repetitive, not very inspired, highly boring tune, dull rap.

Track 42: ZieZie – Fine Girl

I quite like the tune, but there’s some very irritating stuff with the vocals going on here.

Track 43: Sigrid – Sucker Punch

Not a hit yet (as of 23rd November 2018).

Nice bit of classic pop with a good atmosphere.

Track 44: Selena Gomez – Back To You

Repeated artist alert!  We’ve already had Selena Gomez on track 26.

The verse is nice, but the tune on the chorus irritates me.

Track 45: LSD – Thunderclouds

LSD are a collaborative project between Labrinth, Sia, and Diplo, hence the name.

It’s the mobile phone advert music.  I actually had it stuck in my head before it got into the charts – it’s a really incessant earworm.  It’s a bit of a messy track, but quite a good tune.

Track 46: Dean Lewis – Be Alright

Dull, acoustic-y ballad.  I never thought I’d type this sentence, but the Streets did this theme much better in Dry Your Eyes back in the ’00s.

New Hits Friday: 27th July 2018

A new feature today!  As I’m finally done with the Now! compilations, I thought I’d continue with my chart geekery by discussing my initial reaction to the new entries in the UK Top 40 every Friday.  I warn you in advance: I’ve not been hugely impressed by chart music recently.  Still, let’s give it a go.

Benny Blanco, Halsey and Khalid – Eastside

It’s a pretty tune, but it’s a bit generic.

The video tells an interesting story, but it’s not much to look at.

B Young – 079ME

I do like the rhythm, but for me it’s too similar to Jumanji, his previous hit.

The video is typically HD and summery, and as such very forgettable.

Panic! At The Disco – High Hopes

I really like the orchestral-sounding instrumentals on this one, and it’s got a nice epic feel.  Great to hear this kind of pop in the charts, too – it’s refreshingly different.

They’re being tardy with releasing the video though.  Sort it out!

6ix9ine, Nicki Minaj and Murda Beats – Fefe

So awful and offensive they didn’t play this one on the radio…

…and the video’s equally appalling.  (NSFW, just to warn you.)

The 1975 – Love It If We Made It

I really, really like the 1975 and their retro-sounding pop-rock.  This track has great synthy instrumentals and thoughtful lyrics.  My favourite of this week’s new hits.

No video though!  I was looking forward to something that would mitigate the visual offensiveness of the last one.

Loud Luxury and Brando – Body

Great atmosphere on the chorus, but again it’s a very uninspired tune.

The video is a boring ‘in da club’ video with lots of strippers and drinking.  Yawn.

Music Review: Now! That’s What I Call Music #99

Day 99 brings us to Now! #99, which was released on 23rd March 2018.

March 2018
This is how the world looked in March 2018. I have hundreds of photos from that month depicting things that I was getting rid of in my clothes cull – the joys of digital hoarding – but this is the only one I have of me, although I suspect Mum and Dad probably have some from their visit to Newcastle that month that I’ve not seen yet. Winning my Slimming World group’s Greatest Loser award was one of my highlights of my journey to target. The house, meanwhile, was even messier and full of boxes than it is now.

I’m starting to get a little suspicious that some of the tracks on these latest Now! compilations weren’t actually hits at all.  I know that a) the charts change so rapidly that there too many songs to remember and b) most chart music these days is so generic that it all blurs into one, but my memory is pretty good, and given that all of these songs are supposed to have been in the charts just a few months ago, I’m surprised that there are so many song titles I don’t recognise.  I will have to do some research as we go through them.

We’ve finally reached the current year, 2018!  Let’s see what pop music has come to these days.

Now! That's What I Call Music #99
Track 1: Rudimental, Jess Glynne, Macklemore and Dan Caplen – These Days

Now I know I’m nearly at the end of this long Now! marathon – this track is still currently (as of today, 19th July 2018) in the Top 40.  We’re so close to the end!

I find the tune pretty irritating and the theme a bit awkward, but there’s some good stuff going on with the lyrics.

Track 2: Dua Lipa – IDGAF

Another tune that really annoys me.

Track 3: Portugal The Man – Feel It Still

Great tune, great danceable beat, and a lyric like ‘let me kick it like it’s 1986 now‘ is always going to go down well with me.  Love this one.

Track 4: Justin Timberlake and Chris Stapleton – Say Something

I really like this tune – it builds very nicely.

Track 5: Taylor Swift – Ready For It?

Good atmosphere, but the tune is very forgettable.

Track 6: Marshmello and Anne-Marie – Friends

This one is insidiously catchy and was stuck in my head for weeks earlier this year.  I’m not a fan of the tune or the theme, so it wasn’t pleasant.

Track 7: Bruno Mars and Cardi B – Finesse

I do like that early ’90s feel (which, judging by the style of the video, is deliberate).  Like the callback to Walk This Way too.

Track 8: Sigala and Paloma Faith – Lullaby

Another annoying tune, but it’s got a good beat.

Track 9: Craig David and Bastille – I Know You

I really like the rhythm, but I find the song a bit cheesy.

Track 10: Jason Derulo and French Montana – Tiptoe

Good solid danceable pop song – really like this one.

Track 11: Jax Jones and Ina Wroldsen – Breathe

Good beat, good tune – quite like this track.

Track 12: George Ezra – Paradise

I really like George Ezra’s stuff – it’s so different to the generic EDM-hip-hop-pop lyrically-vapid tuneless mush that makes up the bulk of the charts these days.  This is an upbeat feelgood song with great lyrics and an awesome chant-along bit near the end.

Track 13: Kylie Minogue – Dancing

There is something indescribably comforting about the fact that, thirty years after I Should Be So Lucky became the favourite song of every girl in my nursery school class, Kylie Minogue is still featuring on Now! compilations.  I feel warm and fuzzy inside.

I really like the guitar on this one – it’s a nice, pretty tune with a retro feel.

Track 14: Camila Cabello – Never Be The Same

Pretty tune, but it’s a little slow for me.

Track 15: Mabel and Notes – Fine Line

I quite like the tinkly instrumentals on this one, and it’s a good tune.

Track 16: Sigrid – Strangers

It’s got a good rhythm, but the tune annoys me.

Track 17: Paloma Faith – Guilty

Repeated artist alert!  We’ve already had Paloma Faith on track 8.

As I explained in the intro, there have been a few tracks on Now! compilations recently I’ve not recognised, including this one.  Looking it up, I now know why.  This wasn’t actually a hit – not in the UK or anywhere else.  As such, I’m not sure why it’s been included!

It’s got a great atmosphere and a nice classic feel, though.

Track 18: Pink – Beautiful Trauma

I find this one a bit depressing, though the tune is very pretty.

Track 19: James Arthur – Naked

Too slow for me, and I don’t like the tune.

Track 20: Tom Walker – Leave A Light On

Again it’s a little too slow for me, but it’s got a good epic atmosphere.

Track 21: Calum Scott – You Are The Reason

Another one that wasn’t a hit – it only got to number 43!

This one’s too slow for me, and the tune’s very depressing.

Track 22: Sam Smith – One Last Song

I quite like the retro-sounding instrumentals on this track.

Track 23: Stormzy and MNEK – Blinded By Your Grace [Part II]

Good tune – quite like this one.

Track 24: Post Malone and Ty Dolla Sign – Psycho

Interesting instrumentals, but I don’t like the tune – it’s very repetitive.

Track 25: Blocboy JB and Drake – Look Alive

Not enough melody for me.

Track 26: Khalid – Location

Another non-hit – this only got to number 67!

Great atmosphere and classic feel – quite like this one.

Track 27: NF – Let You Down

I can’t stand this track – the tune and the high-pitched vocals are so irritating.

Track 28: Ramz – Barking

Great track!  Endearing theme, interesting tune.  Big fan of this one.

Track 29: J Hus – Bouff Daddy

Good atmosphere, but the tune’s boring.

Track 30: Cliq and Alika – Wavey

Also not a hit – this one only got to number 44!

It’s got a good rhythm, but I could do with some more melody.

Track 31: Dave and Mostack – No Words

Nice tune, but the rap’s too messy for me.

Track 32: B Young – Jumanji

It’s got an okay beat, but the tune’s very uninspired.

Track 33: Raye and Mr Eazi – Decline

It’s based heavily around an interpolation of 2002 hit Always On Time by Ja Rule and Ashanti.  I just find it very unoriginal.

Track 34: Notes and Mabel – My Lover

Double repeated artist alert!  We’ve already had both Notes and Mabel on track 15.

This tune really irritates me.

Track 35: Rak-Su, Wyclef Jean and Naughty Boy – Dimelo

This is an interesting one.  It was the X Factor winner’s single for 2017, and for the last couple of years the X Factor winner’s single has not been featured on the spring Now! compilation like it used to be – both Louisa Johnson’s Forever Young and Matt Terry’s When Christmas Comes Around were left out, the latter presumably partly because nobody wants to hear an explicitly Christmas-themed song in the spring.  Part of this, I believe, is because of the X Factor‘s decline in popularity recently, but it’s meant we’ve not been following an interesting change.  Louisa Johnson’s winner’s single was a cover as usual – Forever Young was originally a Bob Dylan song – but Matt Terry’s When Christmas Comes Around was an original song (written by Ed Sheeran), which was a first for the X Factor since Shayne Ward’s That’s My Goal, and signalled an interesting move away from its irritating karaoke format.  This move towards original songs continued in the 2017 competition, with many of the contestants (notably Rak-Su and Grace Davies) performing tracks they had written themselves.

As such, this winner’s single from Rak-Su is self-written – an upbeat Latin-tinged hip-hop track with great lyrics and a clever interpolation of Wyclef Jean’s lines from Hips Don’t Lie – and as a result it’s the only X Factor winner’s single I’ve ever liked.  It’s a great track.  It’s just a shame we had to put up with years of awful pointless cover versions to get to this stage.

(I should note that, despite the above essay, I’ve never actually watched the X Factor.  My interest in this stuff is purely from a chart geek perspective.)

Track 36: G-Eazy and Halsey – Him And I

Pretty tune, quite like this one.

Track 37: Sza and Calvin Harris – The Weekend

Another non-hit!  This only got to number 55.

I’m not hugely keen on the tune on this one, but it’s got a good retro-sounding beat.

Track 38: Hailee Steinfeld, Alesso, Florida-Georgia Line and Watt – Let Me Go

Another generic, irritating tune.

Track 39: 5 Seconds Of Summer – Want You Back

Nice tune, but the verse is too slow and cheesy for me.  The chorus is good though – and I love that rock guitar.

Track 40: Demi Lovato – Tell Me You Love Me

Yet another one that wasn’t a hit – this one only got to number 85!

It’s got a good atmosphere though – really like those instrumentals.  The tune’s nice, but it’s a bit slow for me.

Track 41: Maroon 5 – Wait

And another non-hit – number 79 for this song.

Not keen on this tune – it’s pretty generic.

Track 42: James Bay – Wild Love

This one’s too slow for me.  Nice tune though.

Track 43: Rag ‘N’ Bone Man – As You Are

The complete opposite of a hit.  This didn’t chart at all!

I like the instrumentals at the start, but again it’s not upbeat enough for my liking.

Track 44: U2 – You’re The Best Thing About Me

This one, meanwhile, only got to number 92.

It’s nice to hear some rock music, but the tune’s a bit dull.  It’s got a good retro-sounding instrumental in the middle though.

Track 45: Oasis – Live Forever

This wasn’t actually back in the charts this year (so it’s yet another non-hit, although of course it was a hit on its original release in 1994), but there was an increased awareness of it due to Liam Gallagher performing it at the Brits in tribute to the Manchester Arena bombing victims.

One more thing: I just want to add a quick note about all the non-hits that have littered this playlist.  While I’ve only just noticed it with this one, I suspect non-hits have been a thing for quite a few Now! compilations leading up to this, as there have been quite a few instances where I’m surprised I recognise so few of the tracks (as I mentioned in the intro, while it is tough to remember hundreds of generic songs, I have followed the charts religiously this decade and have a good memory).

I’m not sure how I feel about this.  I can sort of understand it in a way, as 95% of chart music in the late ’10s is woefully, utterly dire.  It’s awful – the worst quality it has ever been in my lifetime.  Most of it is completely generic, uninspired and half-arsed, and so I have a bit of sympathy for the Now! compilers deciding to include songs that they think are good but didn’t trouble the charts for whatever reason, rather than yet another terrible identical-sounding EDM track that somehow managed to get to number 24 for a few weeks.

At the same time, what I’ve always liked about the Now! compilations is that they do reflect the most popular music of the time – good and bad.  I feel that including songs that weren’t hits, that weren’t soundtracking people’s lives by being played on the radio and on TV shows and at sports events – well, it kind of takes away from the status of these albums as cultural artefacts of the time.  I’m a little sad about that.  We’ll see what tomorrow brings with the release of the 100th entry in this long music marathon.